Two astounding facts about our God

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This week I noticed two astounding facts about God that previously slipped past me.  The first, that God speaks to His image-bearers, us! And second, He created us to be ‘enough’.

Just how does our Father speak to us?  With Moses, He used direct words, face to face. Do you remember jealous Miriam and how she griped to Aaron about the privileges enjoyed only by younger brother Moses?  Read how God responded as recorded in Numbers 12:6-8

Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you,
  I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
  I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses;
 he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face,
 clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then    were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

With Moses, God used specific, detailed words.

Last night I began reading a book about grace.  The author quoted some verses from Genesis 3. God’s question to Adam about shame leapt out for the first time.  Don’t you both love and fear our Father’s direct interrogations? I still struggle with feeling different from others.  I have labeled myself ‘inadequate’ as a grandmother, compared to all those other grandmothers who seem to come by their roles naturally. Then when I measure myself against other Christians, I rate myself as ‘unloving’.  I know that much of my learned projections are meant to cover up what I am ashamed of.

Maybe you can relate!

Who told you that you were naked? Genesis 3:11 ESV

What does ‘naked’ represent? Think about babies.  They arrive completely exposed, unashamed. Having never been humiliated, they go months before learning to hide something about themselves.

Unfortunately, at a certain age, most of us develop a sense of something not being right with us. Something about us bothers others.  Messaging from others teaches us. It’s the words, the tone of voice, the face, the gestures that communicate our ‘not enoughness’.  Most of us acquire coping mechanisms.

I know some of my learned cover-ups. Other projections are still hidden from me.

Had Adam and Eve stuck with getting truth only from their Father, they never would have known anything else but an artifice-free, secure and loving relationship with God.

Eden 2.0, when Jesus comes back for us, will be safe place. We will finally believe what the Spirit of God has proclaimed through Jesus and the Bible, that our Father has loved us with an everlasting heart.  We were created ‘enough’, never to be shamed.

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Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Numbers 8:1 NASB

This verse stopped me cold. We’ve been journeying with Moses for some time.  Up to now, I hadn’t noticed that the Lord spoke specific words and Moses understood.

Don’t you find it incredible that a being, in a different category than us, should speak with a mere human with such detail?  The instructions Moses received were complex. Friends, our God intentionally communicates with us! When necessary, if His written word or the pressing of the Holy Spirit are inadequate for the situation, He resorts to out-loud words that a human being can understand.

Thinking of God talking with Moses motivates me to practice more intentional listening. Does God want to connect in this way?  Absolutely! We have His written word and His Spirit in us. And just maybe, some of us will hear the spoken sound of His voice

If counterfeit experts can acquire skill, spotting highly sophisticated replicas of money…. If young children can acquire the facility to understand and distinguish sounds, responding purposefully in two or more languages while growing up….then surely we can improve our ability to listen.

I think listening skills are transferrable.  So, this morning I resolved to practice listening more attentively to my ‘neighbor’.  I bet I’ll also hear God more often.

Are you the ‘doing’ kind of Christian?

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Do you ever question whether you’re doing ‘enough’ good works as a Christian? I think there is a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame among believers. We observe some who seem always to be serving in some way. Measuring ourselves against their standard leads us to conclude that we lack dedication, that we might not even be ‘real’ Christians.

Yes, God’s Word teaches that Jesus redeemed us for good works prepared even before God created the universe.  Just what should we be doing?  How do we know?

And speaking of knowing, if we are to have heart-motivation to do any good works, what kind of foundation of knowing do we need?  What will keep us grounded with pure motives (as pure as we can obtain)?

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(Jesus) gave himself for us ….. to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14 ESV

My volunteer colleague yearns to ‘do good works’.  Her soft, large heart embraces those unacquainted with real hope. She is drawn to share with many the truth about Jesus’ liberation of those captive to Satan, those estranged from the Father. But her husband doesn’t (yet) share her passionate zeal. He’s not even sure if he is a believer. She mourns this fact. Seeing other believing couples aligned to serve God together pains her.

Listening to her has made me think, “Is sharing the Gospel the only good work? Just what are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us to do?”  John records the same question and Jesus’ answer.

What must we do, to be doing the works of God? ……… This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:28-29

My friend, burdened by her husband’s lack of interest in things of God would say, “I DO believe in Him!”  True, but the Greek word believe means to trust, to ‘EN-trust all things to Jesus as Lord’.

It could be that until she actually believes that Jesus ‘has got this – her husband’s soul’, her husband’s heart situation might not change.  Jesus might just think it best FIRST to grow HER unequivocal confidence in Him.

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May you have the power to grasp……his (Christ’s) love….

…..and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Ephesians 3:18- 19, NIV

I have an elderly friend whose mind is losing power to grasp more than one thing at a time. Reading and taking in an entire psalm confuses her.

But she can take heart. At this stage of her final journey on ‘earth 1.0’, holding on to one central fact is enough.  What is the one thing she needs to know?

‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’

When I think of grasping one fact, Martha’s sister Mary comes to mind. Jesus praised her for feeding on what was of ‘summa’ importance.

When I struggle to trust God, it’s because I have forgotten what He has already done. Our ancestors, those Goshen Hebrews, neglected to recall God’s wonderous acts as well. God named their failure to remember ‘rebellion’ because seeing, they didn’t recall how good He had been to them.  They didn’t trust Him.

Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders or remember Your abundant kindness. Psalm 106:7 Berean Study Bible

Father, give Pat and me as well power to clutch and hold on to your love. May we not forget. Keep us rehearsing daily your deeds.

You never gave me a young goat!

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About that goat reference in this post’s title, can you identify whose complaint that was?  If you guessed ‘the Older Brother’, you know your Bible!  Luke records that complaint from Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:29, to be exact.

Mike has been reading G.K.Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy out loud to us in the evenings.  Chesterton takes some time getting used to; I have to concentrate more and think through his prose, almost sentence by sentence.  In our current chapter the author is addressing fairy tales and what they teach us about reality.  Chesterton points out that main characters tend to complain about limitations imposed on them when they should be in awe, marveling over what they actually have been granted.

For example, when Cinderella challenges her fairy godmother about why she has to leave the party before the clock strikes midnight, she should really be captivated by the sheer improbability of EVEN going to the ball!  Where’s her question about that turn of events?  Did she ever imagine she would dance with the Prince, let alone be magically attired in elegance with a chic hairdo to boot? So improbable was that scenario, especially since she had been forced to sew for her step-sisters after cleaning house all day.

How like us humans, to complain.  If we are alive, it is SHEER gift. If we are believers, then we have hit the jackpot of God’s purposeful favor.  The guarantee of everlasting life WITH God is the only true ‘happily ever after’ fairy-tale ending we all long for. Yet, we seem to have eyes for what we lack, what we haven’t been given.

I know this well.  Though I rarely complain out loud, were my inner chatter publicized, I would feel great shame. The time I spend envying, longing, wishing silently…that’s PURE complaining. Whom do I envy?  Those who SEEM to be doing and enjoying what I think would satisfy me.  Like traveling, living overseas.  (I’m a linguaphile.)

Is there hope for envy-addicts? Yes!  And I am experiencing it.  It’s called God’s School of Contentment. I’ve been a student in this training academy for decades, now.

The point is that this addiction has deep roots, so it FEELS like I haven’t made much progress.  My Father gently AND frequently hands me a new lesson. Like this week.

Today in the notes of my Spanish study Bible (one of my tools for acquiring Spanish!) the writers noted that ‘obeying the Lord tends to mean leaving off one thing in order to receive something better.‘  The passage in question was Abram’s leaving Ur, his extended family, the land and even the familiar pagan gods to go where THE one and only God was guiding him, to receive new land and descendants.

How did the Lord use that explanation in my holiness training? Immediately I saw that I am to LEAVE OFF the sinful, evil pleasure of envy, in order to bolster contentment with my lot, the circumstances which He has granted me.  (A corollary evil pleasure of mine is worrying, but that’s another post!)

Those Bible notes were anchored a few minutes later by a verse that ‘popped up’ in my Prayermate app – 1 Tim 6:6 Godliness with Contentment is GREAT gain.

And just how does God define the concept of contentment?  The Greek word is ‘autarkaa’ meaning ‘sufficiency’. Blue Letter Bible describes it like this: ‘A mind that looks at one’s lot and says: IT IS ENOUGH, what You’ve given me IS SUFFICIENT.’

Following that description I read one final thought that deepened my desire to practice this trait:

  • without this contentment I will do today’s deeds NOT as an expression of Christ’s all-sufficiency but in order to make up for some deficiency I feel.

So, same message from a couple of different sources.  To top it off, Regina, my spiritual reading buddy, sent me a Luther quote earlier this week. Scrolling through her texts I found it again: “To obey is better than……. miracles.”

Isn’t our Father good!  He doesn’t give up. He keeps after us to make us ultimately happier through holiness.  The obedience in view here, this day, is thanking God for my boundaries, my lot. Being satisfied, being content with what He deems best for me is part of that holiness training.

What do you do with shame?

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They say shame is the most painful of emotions.  I can attest to that.  My shame faux-pas have been due to utterances.  Words pronounced without thinking, mostly in haste. Not a few times in my life have I said something I soon regretted.  The words used up less than a minute of real life when they burst forth but fueled much replay time in my post-mortem.

Shame brings regret and grief over the possible irreparable change in a relationship.

I experienced a fresh episode of this kind of heavy sadness the other morning.  I had encouraged someone to share an anecdote with some visiting family members during dinner.  Not only was it untimely but unseemly.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  The effect was not good.  And I saw the consequence later on.  So for the next couple of days, I felt heavy and depressed.

But God!

His Word IS living and active – Hebrews 4:12.  He DOES restore my soul –  Psalm 23:3.

How did He lift the burden?  I’ve been slowly memorizing the book of 1 Peter.  I began toward the end of January of this year and it’s now mid-September and I’m about 1/3 of the way into Chapter 3.  The blessing of committing Scripture to heart is that the Spirit of Christ uses it in timely moments.  Like this week.

The promise was this:  1 Peter 2:6  The one who trusts in the Living Stone (Jesus) will NEVER be ashamed/shamed or disappointed or frightened away in haste (as Isaiah 28:16 renders this original fact.)

As soon as God reminded me of His truth, I FELT the shame leave.  My God-given reason kicked in like this:

  • I am one who trusts in Jesus.  And He promises to cause all circumstances/events to work for my good.  Even those that are painful.  And if He says I won’t be ashamed or shamed, then I don’t need to wallow or indulge in that feeling now.
  • Besides, if I believe God truly is sovereign, even over our sin and mistakes, then I can trust Him to bring good out of this.
  • Finally, doesn’t God say in Psalm 84:11 No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is upright/blameless/without blemish?
  • I regret what I said, AND I am even more motivated to depend on and pray for future self-control over my thoughts and mouth.  And I know that in Christ I am without blemish.  So then God did not withhold this event because He deems it a good thing. I will trust His judgment.

The upshot?  No more shame.  Just a reliance on my Father to heal the damage I did to the relationship and confidence that He is working in me all the time, through falls and victories in Christ.  Christians are entitled and given access to this kind of relief and healing balm NOW through God’s Word.  And for that I am exceedingly glad!

 

 

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